Under the Dome

A 'steady hand on the rudder' of county election boards

Despite a 50 percent turnover rate in county board of elections members, with many Democratic seats given to Republicans, there won’t be much partisan change in the way things are run, the state’s new head of the board of elections said on Wednesday.

Josh Howard, the State Board of Elections chairman, spoke during a two-day training conference at the Embassy Suites in Cary for board of elections officials from almost all 100 counties. They were there to learn rules like the limits on their allowed political involvement, and the open meetings laws, which include keeping accurate minutes of all meetings.

County board members “rely very heavily on the professional judgment of those nonpartisan career staffers,” he said in an interview. “Because the board majority changed partisan affiliations you won’t see a dramatic change in the guidance we get from our nonpartisan staff.

“It very much tempers the drama of any change. It may disappoint a lot of folks that there’s still a steady hand on the rudder.”

Recently, critics of a sweeping election law have pointed to several counties as examples of party politics coloring the voting process.
. In Watauga County, Board of Elections members voted along party lines to close early voting and general election voting site at Appalachian State University. The board also voted to move early voting to one centralized location – combining three precincts into one 9,000-voter precinct. Another GOP move – and one possible move – in Pasquotank and Forsyth County have brought criticism, as well.

“They come in and just roll over anybody who objects to what they’re doing,” said Kathleen Campbell, the only Democratic member on the Watauga board, during an interview at the conference. She said she is currently appealing the passage of the one-stop early voting plan, which created a single early voting site, removing the ASU one.

Bill Aceto, another member of the Watauga board, could not be reached for comment.

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